Q&A: What You Need to Know
Passengers wear protective face masks at a train station in Hong Kong. PHOTO: KIN CHEUNG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
How dangerous is the new coronavirus?
It appears to be less deadly than a related pathogen—severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which erupted in China in 2002 and spread globally in 2003. SARS killed about 10% of the people it infected, while about 3% of the people confirmed to be infected with this new coronavirus have died. Many of those who have died are elderly or have other illnesses such as diabetes. But the new virus may spread from one person to another more easily than SARS, some early disease modeling suggests. By comparison, however, the influenza virus has killed an estimated 8,200 people in the U.S. alone this flu season, according to the CDC.
How is the virus spread among humans?
It is likely spread through a cough, kiss or other contact with saliva, Chinese officials say. MERS and SARS spread mainly through “respiratory droplets” produced when someone coughs or sneezes. Those two viruses spread mostly through close contact.
Can face masks protect you?
Health experts and mask makers say only a properly used reusable N95 respirator mask certified by an independent agency can both guard against the virus and protect others. Paper or polyurethane foam masks don’t filter out smaller particles responsible for transmitting infectious agents.
Get answers to more questions, including how risky the virus might be, where it might have come from, and what has been done to contain it in China so far, in our full article.